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A roofer has narrowly escaped imprisonment after pleading guilty to dishonestly making false claims, carrying out unnecessary work on a pensioner's roof.
On 5 November 2010 at Bournemouth Crown Court, Aaron Brian James Barnes (Aged 32, of Leigh Road, Eastleigh, Hampshire) was sentenced to twelve months imprisonment, suspended for 2 years, having pleaded guilty to an offence, under the Fraud Act 2006, of dishonestly intending to make a gain for himself by making false representations to a consumer in Ashley Health, Dorset, that roof timbers were rotten and needed replacement.
This led to Barnes carrying out work for the consumer costing £6010 which was not required.
Barnes, who trades as Pro-fit Roofline Builders across Hampshire and Dorset, had also pleaded guilty to five offences against the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, of engaging in unfair commercial practices by omitting to give consumers the required seven day cancellation rights for contracts made at their homes.
These offences were committed in Ashley Heath and Ferndown, Dorset, and North Baddesley, Hampshire. This included one case of falsely dating a contract so it appeared the cancellation period had elapsed. For these offences he was given a further sentence of 26 weeks imprisonment, suspended for two years, to run concurrently with the other sentence.
The prosecution was brought by Dorset County Council after investigations by their Trading Standards Service into Barnes' activities during April and May 2009. Officers intervened and checked work carried out after a complaint was received and it was clear the trader was failing to give cancellation rights.
Discarded roof timbers were seized and retained by trading standards officers and a surveyor's report commissioned.
Barnes was also ordered to be the subject of six month supervision and to carry our 250 hours unpaid work in the community. Compensation was ordered to be paid to a Dorset consumer of £6010 which is to be finalised, along with the payment in principle of £5815 prosecution costs, when confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act are completed.
Ms Recorder Collins, in passing sentence, said that Barnes had taken advantage of the naivety of consumers and could not be trusted. She added that a custodial sentence was warranted although it could be suspended.
Bill Jaggs, Head of Regulatory Services for Dorset County Council said:
"This sort of trading practice is completely unacceptable. Cases of this sort illustrate the very costly consequences to consumers of misleading claims being made by businesses. By responding rapidly to an initial complaint our officers were able to intervene and ensure that appropriate enforcement action was taken. We will continue to effectively challenge any trader operating like this and ensure initiatives that help consumers select traders they can trust are promoted."
The Trading Standards Service advises that consumers looking to have home improvement work done need to choose a trader carefully, using recommendations where possible and get more than one written quote. Consumers should check they know where a business is based in case of problems and limit the amounts paid prior to work starting.